By Michael Schaus
Nineteen United States senators took to the Senate floor earlier this week in an organized attempt to shame and even criminalize political dissent.
For some increasingly authoritarian and controlling members of the Senate, some ideas and facts are apparently too dangerous to debate honestly.
As part of a plan U.S. Senate Democrats pre-coordinated with environmental activists and fundraisers, the senators called out think tanks, researchers, businesses and even individuals for daring to disagree with specific “green energy” policy proposals.
“Those who ignore the climate crisis, or deny it exists, do not have a valid point of view,” said Senator Harry Reid after describing the Nevada Policy Research Institute as a “climate denier” and front group for big oil.
“The Nevada Policy Research Institute even went so far as to oppose Tesla’s factory being constructed just outside of Reno,” Reid continued, “which would employ thousands of Nevadans.”
Of course, NPRI has never had a problem with Tesla building a factory and employing 6,000 Nevadans. However, giving a California billionaire $1.4 billion in tax incentives — while local businesses struggle with tax hikes — is an entirely different matter.
And even though it won’t make a difference to big government climate-alarmists, it’s also worth noting that NPRI doesn’t deny the existence of change in the climate. The issue of global warming and climate change is complex, imprecise and evolving.
The right to disagree about scientific theories and policy proposals, however, should be crystal clear.
But, to the statists in some corners of government, open debate is far too much of a threat to their hold on power. Such debate must be smeared from the floor of the U.S. Senate.
On Monday and Tuesday afternoon senators branded individual groups, think tanks and businesses as “climate change deniers” — an implicit comparison to Holocaust deniers — as well as front groups for “Big Oil.” For two days these lawmakers stood on the senate floor, targeting political dissidents for public shaming — and hinting at a supposed need for legal prosecution of groups that dare to oppose the politically correct environmentalist agenda.
Yes, it was a fine fundraising opportunity for these politicians. But the parade of cartoonish attacks from Harry Reid and 18 of his Senate minions was more than McCarthy-style political theater.
It was part of a growing Brownshirt-style effort to actively criminalize political dissent.
Accompanying the well-organized string of accusatory speeches was a resolution to hold oil companies, researchers and think tanks responsible for perpetrating “fraud” on the American people — liking skepticism of global warming to the way tobacco companies intentionally hid the harmful impacts of cigarettes from consumers.
The resolution mirrored a legal effort by a coalition of more than a dozen Democrat attorneys general to find grounds with which they could hold oil companies criminally liable for supposed damage created by global warming. The AGs asserted that the oil giant ExxonMobil, aided by research from independent non-profit think tanks, “knowingly misled” the public about the alleged dangers of anthropogenic climate change.
Unfortunately, this kind of political bullying isn’t anything new. Nor is it exclusive to the “green-energy” movement.
In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election the IRS massively harassed, blocked and sought to hamstring conservative non-profits. In 2014 a “progressive” prosecutor convinced a Texas grand jury to criminally indict Governor Rick Perry for following through on a veto threat.
The 19 senators who took to the floor of the Senate — with the express purpose of attacking free market groups such as NPRI — are attempting to exploit their government positions and effectively censor politically “incorrect” opinions.
Such an eagerness to suppress free debate suggests a positively Soviet inclination for the use of political power.
Unlike the dubious science used by global warming alarmists, the right to express dissenting opinions and theories should not be confusing nor controversial. Such disagreement is necessary for scientific progress, public policy discussion and the democratic process.
Of course, it could be possible that some activists and lawmakers aren’t actually interested in any of those things.
Michael Schaus is communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. For more visit http://npri.org.